II Beliefs, Situations and Time in War

Partners Apart? The Foreign Policy Attitudes of the American and European Publics


The history of transatlantic relations makes abundantly clear that Europeans and Americans, while sharing many interests, values and views, have often also had divergent ideas on specific policies. While this is hardly disputed, several scholars and commentators further claim that, with developments such as the end of the Cold War and the growing unilateralism of American foreign policy, combined with the increasing economic assertiveness of the European Union, the nature of transatlantic relations has now fundamentally changed and that Europeans and Americans no longer share the same view of the world, whatever may have been the historical situation. This is neither the first time the death bell has been rung for the Atlantic community1 nor the only case in which assessments of the transatlantic relations run widely apart. For some observers, the 'history of American-European relations after World War II appears to present itself as an endless series of conflicts' (Lundestad, 2003: 3), but others take a different perspective and see the North Atlantic Area as a stable 'zone of peace. ... that sets it apart from other regions of the world and political orders of past eras' (Ikenberry, 2008: 6-7).

This divergence of views comes as no surprise since the Atlantic order is a political arrangement among sovereign states quite different from previous ones in history and, as such, difficult to understand through the traditional lenses of international power politics. In particular, if we do not take into account the 'intermestic' nature of transatlantic issues (a term coined by Manning (1977) to cover the interaction between the domestic and international levels), we miss the very nature of its crises and we are led to prematurely cry wolf on the state of Euro-American relations.

In this chapter we examine the recent evolutions in the state of Transatlantic relations, in order to assess whether and to what extent there is indeed - as is often alleged - a transatlantic gap and whether it is getting wider or not. We will do so by looking first at what are the main characteristics of the Atlantic order, as it developed over the years, and we will then focus our attention on mass attitudes, aware that this is only one of several angles through which one can assess the nature and evolution of Transatlantic relations. We argue that the transatlantic order rests on four fundamental dimensions, along which one can compare the state of mutual relations and their stability. These are: (1) a shared definition of threats to the constituted order; (2) a sense of community among the members of this order; (3) support for the main transatlantic institutional mechanisms of cooperation and coordination and, finally, (4) the readiness to use force to defend this order if needed.

Theoretically, these four dimensions nicely fit with different theoretical perspectives about the sources, nature and consequences of the transatlantic order: Realism in its different varieties,2 Liberal institutionalism (e.g., Adler and Barnett, 1998; Deutsch, 1957; Ikenberry, 2011) and Constructivism (Risse, 1995; Wendt, 1999) diverge as to both the sources of order in Transatlantic relations - the nature of the threats, the role of institutions, the importance of sense of community - and the consequences of these factors on national policy preferences and intraAtlantic coordination.

To these four elements we can add a fifth element that is relevant in the context of this book, the ideological divide between Left and Right that introduces a domestic perspective to explain the transatlantic divide. The latter is theoretically relevant according to those foreign policy theories (e.g., Auerswald, 2000; Gaubatz, 1999; Putnam, 1988) that stress the role of the interaction between domestic and international factors. Before entering into the analysis of how public opinion has evolved on each of them, we shortly discuss each of the four elements of the Transatlantic order in some detail.

A first element of this order is the definition of what the threats are to this order and whether there are differences in the perception of threat that might divide the US and Europe. Perception of threats is often considered to be the litmus test of the differing European and American worldviews. The second dimension concerns the sense of affinity and similarity among Europeans and Americans, with particular reference to anti-Americanism - in Europe - and anti-Europeanism in the United

States. The third dimension is the role of the US and the EU in the world and their relationship. Some students argue that the current estrangement is due to structural questions, in particular the position of Europe vis-a-vis the United States. Included here are arguments derived from the fact that we are today living in a world that is militarily still unipolar but economically multipolar. We want to analyze this issue in some more depth, looking, inter alia, at the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, focusing on the appreciation of the NATO alliance and the desire for a common partnership. The fourth and last section of this chapter explores differential attitudes on the use of military force in Europe and the United States, both in principle and in specific circumstances.

We have chosen to assess the state of Transatlantic relations on these four dimensions not only because several scholars have pointed to them to argue the existence of a gap between Europeans and Americans, but also because they do indeed seem to constitute different, and as we assume fundamental, aspects of the structure of beliefs of the public. The analysis of these dimensions can, therefore, shed some comparative light on the issue of whether and how the public in the US and Europe have parted company or (continue to) share a common way of structuring their attitudes toward foreign policy. Moreover, those four dimensions are also theoretically relevant, since they refer to as many different variables that, in the decades-long debate among Realism, Neorealism, Liberal and Constructivist approaches about the sources, nature and consequences of the Transatlantic order, have been referred to as sources of differences and similarities between the two sides of the Atlantic Community.

The reason why disagreement around the nature of threats is so important is that the correct perception is not only a crucial element for an effective and safe foreign policy but also an important component of alliance cohesion. Realism gives a great importance to threats in explaining the stability of the international system (Waltz, 1979, 1993), alliance cohesion (Holsti, Hoppmann and Sullivan, 1973) as well as national foreign policy (Rose, 1998; Schweller, 2003). Holsti, Hoppmann and Sullivan synthesize the role of threats in alliance cohesion according to Realism: 'alliances are generally formed in response to external threats, ... their cohesion is largely dependent upon the intensity and duration of that threat, and . .. one major cause of their disintegration may be the reduction or disappearance of the external threat against which they were initially formed' (Holsti, Hopmann and Sullivan, 1973: 88). Based on the socio-psychological hypothesis that threats increase group cohesion (Sherif, 1961), some suggest that when threat perception increases, alliance cohesion grows too, and when tension does relax, so does cohesion.

Threat perception 'is a function of asymmetries of power' (Rousseau, 2006: 19). When the distribution of power (among the Great Powers of the time) is asymmetric, then states will either balance (internally or externally, depending on the structure of the system) against or bandwagon with the most powerful state (or with the rising power). While Neo-Realism posits a direct link between distribution of power and either balancing or bandwagoning, most recent versions of this approach either suggest a mediated role of threat perception (Schweller, 2004; Walt, 1987) in explaining balancing versus bandwagoning or a blending of Realist and Constructivist arguments (e.g. Rousseau, 2006). Walt has suggested that states do not balance against power (i.e. capabilities), but rather against threats, with several other variables besides power asymmetries affecting the perception of threat, some based on material capabilities, but others on the perception of opponents' aggressive intentions (Walt, 1987: 25). Schweller (2004) explains 'underbalancing' using domestic factors explanations in which elite consensus or disagreement on the nature and scope of the threat is a crucial explanatory variable.

Threat perceptions and alliance cohesion have pride of place in explaining both the 'Long Peace' after 1945 (Gaddis, 1986) and the cohesion within the Atlantic Alliance (Lundestad, 2005). According to this explanation, cooperation among the European countries and the United States is a direct consequence of the bipolar structure of the international system that emerged from World War II. The clear perception of the Soviet threat and the American hegemony 'mitigated the effects of anarchy on the Western democracies and facilitated cooperation among them' (Mearsheimer, 1990: 47). 'A powerful and potentially dangerous Soviet Union forced the Western democracies to band together to meet the common threat. Britain, Germany and France no longer worried about each other because all faced a greater menace from the Soviets' (Mearsheimer, 1990: 46-47).

Not surprisingly, once the Soviet threat melted, Realists came to expect that 'relations among the EC states will be fundamentally altered' (Mearsheimer, 1990: 47), and that 'NATO's days are not numbered, but its years are' (Waltz, 1993: 76). This did not happen, however. Years later, Waltz attempted to rescue the validity of Realists' predictions against the stubborn persistence of NATO with other arguments: 'Realists, noticing that as an alliance NATO has lost its major function, see it mainly as a means of maintaining and strengthening America's grip on the foreign and military policies of European states' (Waltz, 2000: 20). With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union as the major threat to the Western alliance, the Atlantic community is so running 'out of demons ... out of enemies' (Powell, quoted in Waltz, 2000: 29). The lack of an overarching threat and the unipolar nature of the international system makes the convergence among European countries and the United States less obvious and predictable than during the Cold War. 'The absence of serious threats to American security gives the United States wide latitude in making foreign policy choices' (Waltz, 2000: 29), and, at the same time, it makes the European allies less worried about 'abandonment' by the American ally and more suspicious of 'entrapment ' by the lone Superpower (Snyder, 1994).

For some (Kagan, 2002, 2003, 2004; Nau, 2008) the recent crisis of Transatlantic relations over Iraq can be traced back to 'differences among the allies over the strategic threat posed by terrorism, comparable perhaps to allied differences in the late 1940s over the Soviet threat.' Others, however, doubt whether terrorism can (and should) play as effectively the role of overarching threat necessary to promote alliance cohesion and stability as once did the Soviet Union (Kupchan, 2002: 19-21).

This new situation created by the end of the Cold War raises at least three questions related to threat perception and its role in promoting Atlantic stability and cohesion. First, even conceding that the Soviet threat actually played such an overarching stabilizing role during the Bipolar Cold War, is there any other danger that might play a similar role in the Post-Bipolar world? Here the mind immediately comes to Terrorism as a possible functional substitute of the Soviet Union in such a role of cohesion promotion. Second, irrespective of whether Terrorism can play such a role, do Europeans and Americans converge on a similar view of the threats coming from the outside world? Third, and last, can the Atlantic Community survive in a world in which no specific threat plays such an overarching role or in which threats are perceived as of different importance by Europeans and Americans?

A second source of Atlantic order is constituted, according to both Liberal and Constructivist perspectives, by the sense of community, defined by Deutsch et al. (1957) as 'a matter of mutual sympathy and loyalties'; of 'we feeling', 'trust', and 'mutual consideration' that have been conducive over time to overcome differences, to create security communities and achieve cooperation in solving conflicts through nonmilitary means also in periods in which the hegemonic power of the US was in decline. One may well ask if this 'sense of community', which originated in the Cold War, is still here, after the demise of the common enemy, or whether it is slowly dissipating under the pressure of a growing set of transatlantic conflicts over security as well as other issues.

A sense of community also contributes to create borders, cultural and political, more than juridical, which help to define who 'We' are, the 'Us', as compared to the Others, the 'Them' cast outside the community. Do Europeans see Americans (and, conversely, do Americans see Europeans) as part of the same in-group or rather as a different actor, in a league with China, Russia and other non-European countries? And do Europeans and Americans (still) see the same countries as Others?

A third source of Atlantic order has been located in the highly institutionalized nature of Atlantic relationships. Institutionalists (such as Ikenberry, 2001, 2008, 2011) as well as proponents of the hegemonic stability theory (e.g., Keohane, 1984; Ruggie, 1982) and of the 'imperial' view of the United States (Bacevich, 2001, 2002; Ferguson, 2004; Gaddis, 1998; Lundestad, 1998; Maier, 2006) all tend to see Transatlantic relations as characterized as much by the overwhelming nature of American military, economic and cultural power and the willingness of European powers to accept American leadership (labeled by Lundestad, 1998, as 'empire by invitation') as by the existence of a strong set of integrating institutional mechanisms that limit and constrain national sovereignty along several economic and political dimensions (Risse, 1995). Following this line of thinking, a possible explanation of estrangement between Europe and the US should be sought not so much in either a mismatch in threat perceptions or a deterioration of mutual sentiments but in the increasingly differing views of the public on the two sides of the Atlantic about the support for transatlantic institutions and the role which each of them respectively should play in the world.

A fourth, 'intermestic' perspective, finally, sees the Atlantic order as combining elements of both domestic and international politics. According to this perspective, the distinction between foreign and domestic policy gets increasingly blurred when it comes to Transatlantic relations. Foreign policies do not only have a significant impact abroad, but also domestically, and prevailing ideologies and domestic politics in turn can also have consequences abroad. In this context, the ideological makeup of a country, that is the relative strength of various political persuasions, is an important domestic constraint and driving force on the foreign policy of the country concerned. To the extent that the distribution of domestic forces corresponds with or rather differs from ideological alignments in other countries this may either facilitate or hamper cooperation over the trans-boundary alliances. Along these lines, Nau (2008: 99) has, for example, claimed that 'differences between the United States and Europe in the partisan composition of government may matter more'. In his view, what is important is the nature of the party coalitions governing on the two sides of the Atlantic: 'when center-right parties or, conversely, center-left parties hold power simultaneously across the major Atlantic countries, transatlantic relations tend to function more smoothly' (Nau, 2008: 99).

Accordingly, this chapter is organized into four sections. To summarize in a nutshell the grist of our message: the data seem to show that, of the four elements discussed, the major source of differences among publics on both sides of the Atlantic consists of their different views and attitudes toward the adequacy and legitimacy of the use of military force. In other words, sources of differences between Europeans and Americans seem to bear not so much upon either structural divergences in goals and values, on opposite perceptions of threats or on entrenched animosities, but rather on different assessments of the relative merits of different means and instruments in attaining the commonly desired goals.

Most of the analyses in this chapter are based on public opinion data collected by the Transatlantic Trends Survey (TTS), mostly from the period 2002-2006, after 9/11 and in the middle of the transatlantic crisis over Iraq. Whenever possible, we cast our data in a wider perspective, relying on secondary survey data collected by academic, political and media sources.3 Here and throughout this chapter, for the sake of comparability, the analysis is based on five European countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Although data are available for a much wider set of countries, we limit ourselves to those for which we have the longest time trends so as to frame our discussion in the widest temporal perspective and thus to give a sense of what is changing and what is stable in transatlantic relations.

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